How Much Alcohol Does It Take to Kill You?

Alcohol is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but how much to drink is too much?

The U.S. blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08 percent for drunk driving — the equivalent of about one drink in an hour, although your personal BAC per drink may differ depending on your height and weight, doctors say.

When singer Amy Winehouse passed away, she had a BAC of .416 percent, CNN reported Oct. 26. For a 110-pound woman, reaching that BAC level would result from drinking about 12 or 13 ounces of 80-proof liquor in an hour, experts say.

It takes a person approximately one hour to metabolize a drink, whether that’s a single shot (1.5 ounces) of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a 12-ounce beer, doctors say.

A person may need to be hospitalized with a BAC of under 0.2 percent, and your vital organs may stop functioning before you reach a BAC of 0.25 percent, doctors say.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion and stupor, vomiting, seizures, irregular breathing, blue-tinged or pale skin, and passing out without being able to be re-awoken, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“The message is very simply when you know someone has been drinking and drinking heavily, don’t wait,” says Robert Pandina, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University. “Call the rescue squad, get them on oxygen, get them to the hospital so they can be properly treated.”

Reader Question: Have you ever helped someone suffering from alcohol poisoning? 

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